Ruthin group helps budding female entrepreneurs into business
A scheme launched by seven women to encourage others into business is now supporting more than 30 entrepreneurs by encouraging them to work together.
Female Professional Creatives Clwyd (FPCC), was formed in Ruthin, Denbighshire, by friends who wanted to share tips on how to start up and run a business.
The scheme now attracts more than 30 women at its monthly meetings.
There are plans to encourage the Welsh government to adopt a similar scheme.Shared experience
End Quote George Jones Ruthin businesswoman
As far as advice on how to manage three kids under 10 and run two businesses, that's the kind of thing we can advise on”
FPCC was started earlier this year by Hazel Roberts, Tanya Mortimer, Sarah Hughes, Holly Edwards, George Jones, Sarah Williams and Angharad Preston, who run businesses in the Ruthin area.
They wanted to help and encourage women to start their own businesses.
However, as interest grew, they realised they could not devote the time they wanted to.
The project was handed to Margaret Carter, an entrepreneur for nearly 50 years - 30 of them running the Ruthin-based Patchwork Traditional Foods company.
She said: "They were all friends and helped each other on a social level.
"Since then it's morphed, and we hold the meeting at Patchwork once a month.
"We had 19 at the first meeting, 27 at the second, and our most recent meeting had 33."
The group does not charge, and Ms Carter offers individual mentoring if requested.
She added: "I want them to help each other.
"I would like to see other entrepreneurs like myself to engage in doing the simple things that I'm doing."
Under the new name, Patchwork People Network, the group shares ideas and experiences which, Ms Carter says, helps "cross-fertilises their businesses".
Recent figures show unemployment for women in Wales is at a 20-year high.
Ms Carter said the group was never intended to be women-only, but just "morphed into that".
What is different about the group?
Business coach Olivia Steffanino is running a series of workshops to try and inspire the group.
Asked what makes the group different to other networking sessions, she said it was about "more than just meeting new people and swapping business cards, which is the traditional networking approach."
"This is a group that will be learning with each other, people who have an interest in common and learn together to develop that interest naturally form relationships," she added.
"And relationships are one of the six keys to building a successful business.
"So, as well as learning practical business growth skills as individuals for their own businesses, they'll also be forging relationships with the people around them, and thus a collaborative, mutually supportive business 'eco-system' is created."
The six keys, she says, are profit, relationships, audience, interactivity, sales and customer experience.
Connecting with each other is also crucial, she says, "for example, a photographer, cake-maker and dress maker can connect with each other and not only pass clients to each other but also focus on joint marketing activities within say, the local wedding 'industry'."
"We're evolving into something very special. I'm told it's unlike any other group of its kind.
"It's not to exchange business cards. It's about empowering people."
Ms Carter is on the panel of the Welsh government's Youth Entrepreneurship Strategy and wants ministers to adopt similar networking schemes for young businesses across Wales.
She is also involved in a similar local project with school children and wants to widen the scheme to teach youngsters entrepreneurial skills.
She added: "I want businesses up and down Wales to say the model works, and get other businesses in Wales to help youth."Local need
Sarah Hughes, of edible flowers firm Eat My Flowers, said the original FPCC was "very informal".
She added: "We would meet and discuss how businesses were going. We worked as mentors for each other and it worked very well.
"Then we found other people wanted to join and we realised there was a need for something like this in the local area."
George Jones, who runs beauty products firm Bathing Beauty, said: "We're not experts in how to write a business plan.
"As far as advice on how to manage three kids under 10 and run two businesses, that's the kind of thing we can advise on.
"We're very much in Margaret's group now. The group has expanded massively. It's really taken off."